By SEUNG MIN KIM and CHRIS MEGERIAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed in part at making it easier for women seeking abortions to travel between states to obtain access to the procedure.
More specifically, one of the directives Biden will issue will allow states that have not outlawed abortion to apply for specific Medicaid waivers that would, in effect, help them treat women who have traveled from out of state.
The order will also call on health care providers to comply with federal nondiscrimination laws and streamline the collection of key data and information on maternal health at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The details were described by senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the executive order ahead of a formal announcement.
Biden described as a “health care crisis” the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the landmark 1973 ruling Roe vs. Wade, and “every part of the federal government does its part at this critical moment where women’s health and lives are on line.”
The order came one day after Kansas voters protected the right to abortion in the conservative state, an outcome that Biden celebrated.
Biden signed the order from the White House residence, where he continues to isolate with a rebound case of COVID-19. He participated virtually in a meeting led by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I wish I was with you in person, quite frankly,” Biden said. “But I’m getting there.”
The new order nonetheless falls short of what many Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocacy groups have demanded of the Biden administration. One chief ask has been for Biden to declare a public health emergency on abortion, which White House officials have said would do little to free up federal resources or activate new legal authorities.
Wednesday’s order is the latest in a series of executive actions from the Biden administration since the constitutional right to an abortion was eliminated in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June.
Separately, on Tuesday, the Justice Department sued Idaho over its statute that criminalizes abortions, with Attorney General Merrick Garland arguing that it violates federal law.
Near the end of Biden’s remarks, he once again called on Congress to codify Roe vs. Wade into law.
“If Congress fails to act, the people of this country need to elect senators and representatives who will restore Roe and protect the right to privacy, freedom and equality.”